In this, the fourth in a five-part series on gaining and retaining clients in 2021, we spoke to Jamie Thorpe, Head of Experience Management at Ipsos, who is a long-standing member of the CX professional community having worked on the front line with clients for over 20 years designing, implementing and evolving CX with brands.

When we asked Jamie about the importance of building relationships, he said “It’s quite simply business-critical. At its most basic, CX is underwritten by a transaction between a customer and a brand. People and relationships are at the heart of winning, keeping and growing customers.”  Jamie refers to what he calls the positive engagement spiral: 

Brand hires employee and treats them well, employee is engaged and delivers excellent service to customer, customer remains loyal to the brand. 

No matter how digital businesses go, people are (and will always be) the core of the engagement and physical will be back. As humans, we have a need to interact and build face to face and tactile relationships. This translates into customer engagement which is, of course, amplified in these challenging times.

Relationships? So what?

“Because experience is only everything,” Jamie says.  Let’s start with why a business should care. Of course, at its most utopian, a business should care because it is the right thing to do, there is a social responsibility to being ethical, moral and professional. However, business being business there is a commercial reality that can’t be ignored.

Customers buy from brands they trust. Ipsos research has shown that 60% of people agree that in a world of so much choice, brands they trust are more important to them than ever.  Trust in the views of other customers has grown with 66% of people saying they will try a product or service if it gets a lot of good reviews. They also engage differently nowadays with more than 59% of people tending to buy brands that reflect their personal values. 

With this in mind, brands can ill afford to ignore the importance of experience. Return on CX Investment (or ROCXI as Ipsos calls it) is powerful. With a recession almost a certainty and customers being more savvy, fickle and promiscuous than ever, the customer is king, and the experience can be the difference between success and failure…

Nurturing relationships in the time of crisis is critical. The moments and experiences of now will shape the future through strong and long-lasting memories. History has proven that those who focus on their customers (and therefore their CX) will be remembered by customers leading to stronger and more meaningful lasting relationships.

But with so much noise on this subject where should brands focus?

When asked this question Jamie refers to the Ipsos Forces of CX. “The Forces are the science of strong relationships focussed on a human-centric framework that helps organisations better design and deliver customer experience so that it drives true competitive advantage and ROCXI.”

For Jamie this is about the true business impact, not just the stated intent to advocate for example. The Forces are the building blocks of CX to help organisations take their CX to the next level. The headlines can be seen here, though the science behind it goes far deeper.  This is the result of a body of work that has been proven to be drivers of customers (and the influencers) of their experience…  

a photo demonstrating forces of CX and meaningful relationship building

The rationale behind Forces is that of a human centric CX offer. In this market there is much focus on the functional aspects of customer experience, however the brands that lead in this space operate on an emotional level with customers by reflecting what’s important to them.  

So how do brands practically make a difference? 

Jamie believes that there are many ways to make a practical difference and to make CX work for your business. “To keep it simple I have three areas that we are seeing customers wanting from brands,” they are:

  1. Know Me – Customers nowadays know the data and personal information that is held on them (for example, transactional, shared information, segmentation, modelled intelligence and more). The expectation here is to be served in context through high degrees of personalisation. People are busier, pressed for time and more impatient than ever before. We are now seeing high levels of dissatisfaction when brands fail to use the information available to them to improve the experience.  Make it personal and mean it.  Don’t ask questions about things you already know or make recommendations that are not relevant. Relationships are about understanding.
  • Hear Me – Firstly, customers want to be heard. It is important to know that the computer doesn’t just say no and that the time they spend communicating with brands is not wasted. Secondly, the advent of our 24/7 society and technological advances means that customers want to engage when they want to and how they choose to. Channel of choice and availability of access is of ever-growing importance. 
  • Value Me – This is not just about financial reward, OK sometimes it is, but looking at it through a CX lens, it’s not.  It is about ensuring the customer feels that they are important to the brand and that their time is valued. In CX this is primarily about closing the loop, a passion of Jamie’s. Closing the loop, according to Jamie, is the single biggest way to drive CX improvement. Those sticking to their word and responding effectively to customers whether through feedback, or other means, will stand a strong chance of having a competitive advantage.

Frankly, there is still much to be done by brands to truly embed and leverage the power of CX.  With customer expectation on the rise and a tough economic climate on the horizon, Jamie describes it as being a “game changer”.  On the plus side, the opportunity and size of the prize is significant. Jamie said, “We are currently conducting many maturity assessments for brands wanting to understand how they fare against our CX competencies.  It’s a good sign that this planning is happening”. Jamie describes CX as an evolution, not a project.  Once the shackles of lockdown are lifted, physical interactions will be back in fashion very quickly and those who are smart are using this time effectively to ensure they don’t miss out on their CX opportunities.” 

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